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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  May 17, 2011 12:00am-12:30am EDT

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tavis: tonight, a conversation with emmy-winning actor tom selleck. he became a household name "magnum p.i.." on may 22 contest the return of the popular movie series jesse stone, also airing on cbs. we are glad youfo on cfor our conversation with tom selleck, coming up. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is
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proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one onsanv a time. >> nationwide is on your side >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. kcet public television] --www.ncicap.org-- tavis: i am always pleased to have tom selleck on this program. in addition to his role on the popular show jesse stone, he shows on this season's most watched new show called "blue bloods." here are scenes from "blue bloods."
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>> what about the boys? >> what are we going to do? >> it is my considered opinion that this gets out and the media gets ahold of it, she won't have much of a chance. >> so you have another hit on your hands. >> is there any would around, i need to knock on wood. actually, cbs likes to hold their announcements.
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i think it is a hit. it is a hit for me. it is a show i wanted to succeed, not only when i first read the script, but when i got together with the cast. family dinner is a big part of our show. the first thing we shot on the pilot, the first day, was the family dinner scene. we had to kind of pretend we had a relationship, but they are so good, these actors, and having done a long series, they are also so good as people. they are people i want to spend some time with. tavis: i had no idea your first answer would include a comment about those family dinners. as is often the case, i am in my dressing room and my producer an
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assistant, everyone in that room said the best thing about the show in every episode, you guys meet around the dinner table. it is a powerful thing. what do you make of that? >> i think there is a cultural thing, not only in this country but probably throughout the world. everybody did not have a family like the ravens. everybody did not have that opportunity. but they had family or wish they had that output. it is an adult family drama. family drama usually involves an argument, which is siblings and parents and kids. i think the real secret to it is the show has a very procedural elements that you see first, you know what each character, who hopefully you like and want to walk in their shoes, what each character is going through during the show
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and you know what they are sitting on when they come to the family dinner. that is kind of a secret for the audience. magnum had its own secret, it had a first person narrative. i talked to the audience and shared things with them. i think those audience secrets, knowing what the character is going through and thinking they should not have brought that up at the family dinner. tavis: you were a private eye in magnum. i still love that show today. >> i must have had 200 people come up to me over the years and say they have the car for the show. we did it for eight years and there are only six of them. [laughter] tavis: what is it that over the years, we continue to be pulled
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into shows about detectives, about cops, and private eyes. >> i am not really sure what it is. first of all, it is a good platform for trauma. -- for drama. i think part of it is, culturally we seem to come down on that side. it is the same thing in westerns. everything is a westerner, anyway, in my opinion. i don't know what it is. i do think to my the kind of police and, or the private detective i gravitate to is one where you see the character coming out, and hopefully a lot of flaws, because we all have them. none of us really handle things quite the way we would like to every time, and i think the audience identifies with that. if you can get them to walk in
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your shoes or want to walk in your shoes, in our case in "blue bloods" the audience sticks with you. tavis: i wonder how important you think it is to show humanity. >> when i read the script, and had that elements, written by a couple of really good writers from "the sopranos." there is that element and i think a lot of people in the country feel, if you are playing in new york city police officer, you are portraying a hero. in our case, flawed heroes, so they are more believable, but you are playing a hero, and irresponsibility is significant. if you are in command, you really don't want to show
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weakness or the problems you are going through. you want to give confidence to your people, but yet you want the audience to see just those things. private moments for a character like the police commissioner become important so they can let down their guard. but it has been a real challenge. he cannot just go around barking orders because he is the boss. a year before the story started, he had responsibility. in his mind, he ordered his son into harm's way and he did not come out. he lost his son a year before he became police commissioner. tavis: let me jump from that to jesse stone. what do you want to say about
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the return of mr. stone? >> jesse is jesse. i have to issue no. 8. -- have to shoot no. 8. on the 20th we start shooting jesse stone. it is called "benefit of the ubt." cops seem to like jesse because all the things they cannot do. he breaks quite a few rules. he is in trouble at the beginning of "innocence lost." but he is a good man, much more flawed than frank reagan. when he'd take the bribe, he thinks it is probably ok to go home to his lonely little house
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and have a couple of drinks. it is kind of self evident that too much is not a good thing. tavis: you were born in detroit. i am curious as to what you make of the fact that you are birthplace is going through -- >> i think about it a lot. first of all, there is no baseball team. my dad had one year of college and he came out here, took a big risk. he is a self-made man, or was. my dad has passed away. but we got in a car, my vote -- my older brother and i, and picked up stakes and came down
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here and he did not make a deal in the real estate business for two years. but then my younger brother and sister were born. my mama was from a family of 11. we would go back every summer in the family car. tavis: california to detroit, every summer? >> we are sleeping on the floor and arguing who gets to sleep on the floor and who gets the hump in the middle. tavis: i have nine brothers and sisters, and we had a station wagon. used to run to the car to avoid sitting on the hope. >> we argued, and i was the younger of the two. my younger brother and sister were babies. there was no air conditioning, and with diaper changing and all
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of that. my mom was born in pennsylvania and that they were coal miners. they moved to detroit. detroit was the place where you could pick yourself up and improve your station in life. they all ended up in the auto business. that worked for its zenith carburetor and u.s. rubber. it was just a real map. it changed a lot of people's lives. to see what happens to people's lives, who knows what reason, you can argue about what has happened, but it is kind of tragic. tavis: when we talk about what detroit is going through right now, they are going to have to
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fill their way up like the rest of us. >> i got a lot from my parents. i could probably go into analysis for 20 years. if they did not say, they lived it, was take a risk. my dad took a risk when he came to l.a. it was not like he succeeded right away. it is what holds people back. i really learned a lot from sports. you fail so much more than you succeed. it helped me when i got in the acting business. i left so many auditions when i did not relate risk, where i played it a little safe. then when i did not get the part, i was always able to say
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well, i did not really try. if i had given another 10%, i probably would have gotten the job. but risk and fail and pick yourself up and start over. tavis: the thing i have always it mired about actors -- admired about actors in this town is that you hear a lot more no than yes. how do you develop a constitution that allows you to deal with that all the time? >> pitbull talk to me all the time, it young actors -- people talk to me all the time. i tell them to first developed an appetite for failure. your not going to be right every time. you are not going to perform well every time. if you get a screen test, you will know is a big opportunity.
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the nerves are going to get to you, and you are going to fail at a lot of those, simply because you know this could be a huge break. all of those things can defeat you. wear -- you don't wear permanent scars but you learn from them. i had an acting coach who told me, you were nervous for this scene. i said yes. he said you have to make friends with those of nerves. they are part of your talent. when you walk on stage, talk to them and say thank you for coming. i am glad you are here because you are going to make me better. if you don't rest, you cannot really succeed. it is that fear of terror that is holding so many young people
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back. tavis: you are one of the most celebrated persons in this town. we all loved "magnum p.i.." when that goes away, the saying is if you are only as good as your last hit. when you are not in our face as much, how do you navigate those times in your life? >> it does not mean you don't have down days. i worry about people with very early success, because you cannot really match the first time you burst on the scene and people discover you. i was lucky enough when i got magnum to be a pretty good actor. i was not when i started.
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when i was 25, i looked 35 and sounded 15, and that was not working at all. [laughter] i kicked around a lot, but i had gotten better. i was 35 and realized that i was probably just about as good an actor before i got magnum as the day it went on air. i had an agent i had been with it for a long time, and he came to me after magnum and it said i think you are not appreciated and not being taken care of. i want to represent you. me, doyou don't remember you? i was in your office two years ago and you said you could not do anything for me. [laughter] i was lucky. i was very fortunate to get a
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regular job when i was 35. if you are 17, there is no school for success. there is no course you can take. it is a nice problem to have, but it is a real problem, and learning to handle it really dictates whether you will have a long or short career and a long and happy life. tavis: i am so delighted that you are so open about this. another question about hollywood that people can appreciate -- -- appreciate your answer. there are folks in this town whose careers end because they have been what we call typecast. everyone knows you are "magnum
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p.i." and it takes years to break away from that. how do get out of that typecast bubble, for other people who are trying to deal with what other people are thinking about them >> everybody gets put in a box. i was in a box. i started under contract to get studio. with that, it did not make it easier. it looked at the movies that were being done, it was a time they called the antihero, and people made a judgment on my intellect and my talent based on
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how i looked. so what? everybody has a cross to bear. everybody has to fight those prejudices or preconceived notions. you have to overcome that. the thing don't think you should do is, you should not accept roles to prove something. you accept roles you can do and do well, or at least think you can. also there is a risk involved, trying something new. if you go to the well constantly -- you just cannot push the envelope to push the envelope. gradually, time has gone on. you keep pushing the envelope and trying new stuff.
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i have some pretty good failures. it did not see christopher columbus in discovery, did you? i did that to work with marlon brando. wrong reason to do a movie. i was not very good, and neither is the movie. it constantly surprises you. they sent me a while back a movie i am very proud of. my agent called and said they are sending you this because they want you to play general eisenhower in the lead up to d- day. i said what are they thinking? i just never thought i would be excepted in those kinds of roles. when i read the script, i knew
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the ending, because everybody knows the ending of the day, but it moved me. it was a big risk. you are playing a historical figure, not ferdinand, king of all of spain. you are playing a pretty contemporary figure. i think the saving grace was, most americans remember him visually as the older gentleman who was president. in world war ii he had a gift for a building coalitions, but he was also a bit of a bulldog. so i had some stuff to go on,
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but i could not wear a mustache, and i had to shave my head bald and bleach my hair great. it was during my scalp and i did not know if it was really worth it. the other thing that was a risk for me, i did not want to do an imitation. i think too many actors try to look exactly like them or imitate them. it was better than christopher columbus. tavis: i never know where these conversations are going to go on this program. never knew that we would end up having a conversation about failure and how to navigate it. i have a gift that tom selleck brought to me tonight.
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he has been kind enough to bring it to me to remind me. it comes from calvin coolidge. this is what calvin coolidge said. nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. talent will not. nothing is more powerful than one successful man with talent. genius will not. education will not. the world is full of educated derelicts. persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. the slogan press on will always solve the problems of the human race. mr. selig, thank you for reminding me. "blue bloods on cbs. tom selleck tonight on pbs. that is our show for tonight. until next time, keep the faith.
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>> may i explain later, please? >> i was attacked by a two yo- yos. >> what a minute, higgins. i am telling you i have been attacked and it may be killed and you are worried about the paint? would you get out of my way? out of my way, before i run you down and enjoy it. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org tavis: join me next time with k.d. lang. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help
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with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. thank you. >> be more.
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